By Susan King, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 15, 2007
A Tony Award-winner for the comedy "Lend Me a Tenor," his flawless talents have graced such Great White Way productions as "An Inspector Calls," "Heartbreak House," "The Heiress" and "Twelve Angry Men."
And the 77-year-old father of seven has also worked in films ("Wonder Boys," "Nobody's Fool") and television ("Law and Order," "Damages").
And yet he's never really had a film role that he could sink his teeth into until Tamara Jenkins' "The Savages," which opens at the end of the month.
Bosco gives an unadorned, uncompromising performance as Lenny Savage, a blustery, gruff elderly man suffering from dementia. According to Jenkins' script, Savage senior was abusive to his children (played by Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman) when they were young and had abandoned the family while they were growing up.
Long estranged from their father, the now-middle-aged siblings must take care of their father as he descends further into the darkness of dementia. And Lenny does not go gently into the night.
You're 77 now. Do you worry about growing old?
Not unusually so. I will tell you this though, whenever I have a slippage of memory my wife is very quick to point out "your memory is going." But I don't remember people's names. I couldn't do that when I was 22. I don't remember names!
Did you ever have to experience taking care of an aging family member?
We went through something along these lines, but not quite the same thing. My dad died a long time ago, but my mom lived with my wife and [me] for the last 22 years of her life. She lived to be 84, and as she got older, she got to be a little testy and not very pleasant to be around a lot. She got slight dementia and it was showing itself two or three years before she died. I used [that experience] in my performance. I could make connection with the character from observing my mom and how unpleasant she was. It wasn't something she was responsible for; it was the nature of the illness - you're wasting away, worried and afraid.
Lenny Savage is not a warm, cuddly guy, so that makes the family dynamic rather heated.
It is nice to have that kind of a lead-in, as it were, to give you a handle on how to approach the character, so rather than creating it out of nothing you have certain parameters... .
It was not too difficult to get to the part. It's established from the first that their relationships are not very good, to say the least. So you don't want to see this guy at his age now a roly-poly kind of nice guy. I wanted to play him as they speak about him, a curmudgeonly old guy who was not a very good father, and is not a very happy getting old and having dementia.
Laura Linney told me she had never worked with you before; had you ever appeared previously with Philip Seymour Hoffman previously?
I had seen him in a couple of films, but I hadn't worked with him. I was looking forward to it. The fact that he was in the film... .
When I received the script from my agent and we began talking about it on the phone, I wasn't very excited about doing it because it was low-budget and I didn't know who was going to do it. My agent said you should read it again because it's a pretty good script, and did I know who were playing the other parts.
I said I don't really care. It doesn't matter. But then he said Laura Linney is playing the daughter and Philip Seymour Hoffman is playing the son, I said you're kidding! Wait a minute now! If their agents are allowing them to do this, you damn well know it's going to be good, so include me in.
Though you have been making movies and doing TV for over 20 years, do you still feel more comfortable in the theater?
Yes, ever so much more than movies. That's my first love, and I still retain my first love. I'm a stage actor. That's what I wanted to be. I love doing films now. It took me a while to get used to the medium. In the beginning I was too large and didn't know quite how to handle it. I'm still a bit nervous in films.